Glaucoma: Symptoms and Early Signs
Glaucoma may go unnoticed in the early stages. Discover early signs of the disease, when to seek a diagnosis, and what to expect from the eye exam.
By Ability Central
12 October, 2023
About 3 million Americans have glaucoma. This article will answer your questions about early signs of a glaucoma diagnosis, including:
- What are the early signs of open-angle glaucoma?
- What are the early signs of acute angle closure glaucoma?
- What are the early signs of normal tension glaucoma?
- What is a blind spot in the eye?
- What causes eye redness with glaucoma?
- When should I see a doctor about glaucoma symptoms?
- How should I prepare for my glaucoma eye exam?
- What tests will a doctor run before diagnosing glaucoma?
- Where can I get more information about glaucoma?
What are the early signs of open-angle glaucoma?
Open-angle glaucoma is often called the “silent thief of sight” because symptoms can go unnoticed in the early stages of the disease. Early signs include:
- Peripheral vision loss.
- Pressure in the eye slowly increases.
- In the late stages, central vision may be affected.
What are the early signs of acute angle closure glaucoma?
Acute angle closure glaucoma may be called acute closed-angle glaucoma or just acute glaucoma. This form of glaucoma is a medical emergency because it can lead to permanent vision loss if not treated quickly. If you think you may have acute glaucoma, you should seek immediate medical attention.
Early signs of angle-closure glaucoma come on quickly and may include:
- Eye pain
- Severe headache
- Nausea or vomiting
- Very blurry or hazy vision
- Seeing rainbows or halos around lights
- Redness in the white part of the eye
- Pupils of different sizes
- Sudden loss of vision
What are the early signs of normal tension glaucoma?
Normal tension glaucoma (NTG) is also called low-tension glaucoma. Early signs may include:
- Central vision problems
- Hemorrhages in the small blood vessels of the optic nerve
- Low blood pressure
What is a blind spot in the eye?
As glaucoma damages the optic nerve, small blind spots may develop. Blind spots usually occur on the side or in the peripheral vision. They may go unnoticed until there is significant optic nerve damage. If the entire optic nerve is destroyed, blindness can result.
What causes eye redness with glaucoma?
In angle-closure glaucoma, the rapid increase in eye pressure can lead to red eyes, intense pain, halos around objects, headaches, and nausea or vomiting. If you have eye redness accompanied by eye pressure, seek medical attention immediately.
Can glaucoma affect communication?
Glaucoma often causes peripheral vision loss, which means that when reading, you may have difficulty seeing words or lines of text at the edges of a page. This can result in the need to constantly move your head or eyes to focus on the text. Blurred or tunnel vision can also impact your ability to read printed and digital material. Often, contrast sensitivity can affect the clear distinction of text from the background.
Experts estimate that up to 93% of communication is nonverbal. This includes talking with your hands and using facial expressions. As glaucoma causes blurry vision, a person may miss these nonverbal cues, leading to breakdowns in understanding and inclusion.
In addition, using technology such as a smartphone or tablet may become a challenge. Consider switching to a device with low vision optimized technology (like text-to-speech options and more). The Ability Central Portal has library of devices with a wealth of accessibility data. Try it out today to find a device that works for your changing vision needs.
When should I see a doctor about glaucoma symptoms?
Schedule an eye exam that includes glaucoma tests if you have the following symptoms:
- Blind spots
- Blurry vision
- Eye pain or pressure
- Light halos
- Red eyes
- Tunnel vision
How should I prepare for my glaucoma eye exam?
Once you have made an appointment to test for glaucoma, prepare the following:
- List your symptoms and how long you have experienced each.
- List your medical history, including conditions such as diabetes.
- List your medications and supplements.
- Write down any questions you may have for your eye care professional.
What tests will a doctor run before a diagnosis of glaucoma?
A complete eye exam includes five common tests to detect glaucoma.
- Gonioscopy measures the angle of the eye where it meets the cornea.
- Ophthalmoscopy examines the shape and color of the optic nerve.
- Pachymetry measures the thickness of the cornea.
- Perimetry tests the field of vision.
- Tonometry measures the pressure inside the eye.
Where can I get more information about glaucoma?
To learn more about glaucoma, see:
- Glaucoma: Seven Quick Facts You Should Know
- Glaucoma: First Steps After Diagnosis
- Glaucoma: Planning for Long-term Care
For additional information about vision-related disabilities, see Ability Central’s complete library of resources.